SIOUX CITY, Iowa – On Wednesday, The Master's College volleyball team faced Madonna University in the second round of pool play at the NAIA National Championship tournament.
At the end of the match, the 16th-ranked Lady Mustangs bested the 4th-ranked Crusaders 3-1 (25-16, 23-25, 25-19, 26-24), lifting their season record to 22-8. Notably, TMC delivered Madonna (39-1) its first loss of the season.
With the victory, the Lady Mustangs qualified for single elimination play at the NAIA National Championship tournament, even though they still have another pool play match in front of them. Regardless of Thursday's pool play results, TMC will place first in 'Pool D'.
The day's first frame opened with TMC making quick work of Madonna in a 25-16 route. At one point, the Lady Mustangs posted a 19-8 advantage over the Crusaders. While Madonna's offense made an attempted comeback, a pair of kills by both Sam Dougherty (Madera, CA) and Alison Child (Shingle Springs, CA), a kill by Aubrey Pyburn (Burbank, CA), and a service ace by Aubrey Bekendam (Orland, CA) gave TMC the final say in the set.
Set two proved to be a different story as the Crusaders answered back by narrowly beating the Lady Mustangs 25-23. After seven score ties, the Crusaders edged the Lady Mustangs in the waning moments of the frame by posting two back-to-back kills. Attesting to the closeness of the second set, TMC tallied 16 kills while Madonna claimed 17. Each squad produced a .262 attack percentage.
After tying the score four times early in the third set, an Madonna attack error sparked a 7-0 run giving TMC a 15-8 advantage. Despite posting 11 more points in the match, Madonna's defense failed to wrangle the Mustangs' red-hot offense as three kills from Dougherty, two kills by Ashley Newton (Henderson, NV), and a kill by Bekendam coupled a handful of Madonna attack and service errors, closing the set at 25-19 in favor of TMC.
With the goal of beating the nation's fourth-ranked team becoming a reality, the Lady Mustangs took to court in the fourth frame determined to raise their pool play record to 2-0.
An early Madonna lead forced TMC to play catch up in the fourth set. The Lady Mustangs tied the score at 5-5 and managed to maintain the lead for the majority of the set. A Newton kill sparked a 6-1 run putting the Navy and Gold up 16-9. But, an impressive 11-4 Madonna run tied the match at 20-20. After a Crusader kill by Kayla Vogul, Madonna called a timeout looking to derail the Lady Mustangs' efforts. TMC's resilience forced four more score ties (21-21, 22-22, 23-23, 24-24) before Dougherty tallied her 23rd kill, giving the Mustangs a 25-24 advantage. At the match point, a Madonna attack error by Freeman ended the set at 26-24, and put the match away at 3-1.
For the second consecutive day, Dougherty led all attackers with 23 kills and produced a staggering 19 digs. Bekendam did a little of everything by posting 46 assists, 10 digs, and 8 kills. Rebecca Peluffo (La Crescenta, CA) led the Lady Mustangs in digs with 29. Newton posted 13 kills, a .478 attack percentage, and 6 digs.
As a team, TMC posted 62 kills, a .234 attack percentage, 55 assists, and 85 digs.
"I'm very proud of our teams' play today," commented Lady Mustang head coach Bobby Blanken on the victory. "We faced a climb and took it on step at a time. Rebecca Peluffo played arguably the best game of her career on her birthday and made some spectacular digs. Ashley Newton was an ever-steady offensive threat for us. "I couldn't be more proud of this young focused team!"
Now, the Lady Mustangs will look to go 3-0 in pool play tomorrow as the squad faces 25th-ranked Rocky Mountain College (25-8) in an 11:00 AM (PST) match.
The Rocky Mountain Battlin' Bears entered the NAIA National Tournament with a 25-6 (13-3 Frontier Conference) record. On top of claiming the 2013 Frontier Conference title, Rocky Mountain earned its ticket to Sioux City by beating Montana State Northern in five sets on November 23 in the NAIA Volleyball Opening Round.
Rocky Mountain ranks first in the NAIA in blocks per game (2.930), fourth in digs per game (19.450), and fifth in total Blocks (333.500). The Battlin' Bears also rank 31st in the NAIA in total digs (2217), and 43rd in hitting percentage (0.219).
Rocky Mountain is led by Ying Yang who has tallied 391 kills and 146 blocks in the 2013 campaign.
To watch tomorrow's match, or follow it live via DakStats, click here.